Hawaii's Portuguese invite all to fest today
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Mary Vorsino
Since 1978, a small group of dedicated residents has worked year after year — for months at a time — to bring the sights, tastes and sounds of Portugal to Honolulu.
The Portuguese Festa, set for today and tomorrow at Ala Moana Beach Park, is not as large as some other cultural festivals — or as well attended. But for a loyal following (about 2,000 people come every year) it is a place to find authentic fare, lively performances, and some not so usual offerings.
For one, attendees can get free sessions with genealogy experts versed in the history of the Portuguese of Hawai'i and other ethnic groups. Popular vendors also sell imported crafts from Portugal, along with locally made Portuguese goods.
Evelyn Starkey, president of the Hawai'i Council on Portuguese Heritage, said the festival is a reason for Portuguese and those of other ethnic groups from around the island to gather in a community-like atmosphere, catching up and reconnecting.
The festival is a bit larger this year, with more vendors and a bigger variety of free entertainment. Starkey hopes that will attract some new faces. But it's OK if it doesn't, she said.
"It's just word of mouth," Starkey said this week, as she worked with volunteers to prepare pickled onions for the festa.
By far, the biggest draw of the event is the food. For the past week, volunteers have been cooking malasadas, "Portuguese sausage hot dogs," Portuguese sweet bread, Portuguese bean soup and vinha d'alhos pork.
As for entertainment, there will be performances of everything from traditional Portuguese dancing to slack-key guitar.
There also will be free cooking demonstrations.
And for the festival, the Hawai'i Council on Portuguese Heritage did a reprinting of the popular "Pleasures of Portuguese Cooking," with recipes dating to the 1930s.
Willetta Centeio, administrator for the council, said the festival is meant for everyone — not just those of Portuguese heritage. Chiefly, she said, it's meant to be a learning experience.
The council has been trying to attract more young people to the festival, but that has turned out to be a difficult task.
Starkey said the festa will feature a children's corner, with games for young kids. But teens are pretty scarce at the event.
"It's very hard to get the youth interested," she said. "But I know a lot of them are starting to get interested in their roots."
Starkey is confident they'll come around.
In the meantime, the council will keep putting on the festa. They've already started planning for next year — their 30th anniversary.
Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com.